Monthly Archives: December 2015

Breach Brief – Nationwide Voter Database

 voting-boothA massive and mysterious voter database has been exposed online and no one knows who it belongs to, how it got there or when it will be removed.

An independent security researcher by the name of Chris Vickery discovered the database. The files contain the names, phone numbers home addresses, birth dates, genders, ethnicity, dates of voter registration, party affiliation, e-mail addresses belonging to 191 million Americans from all fifty states and Washington, DC.  To make matters worse the database contains information on who the voters voted for since 2000. The voting records do not include driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, financial records or any kind of familial information. Vickery reported the discovery to DataBreaches.net, which keeps track of massive online security blunders. 

The FBI and the California Attorney General’s Office have been contacted regarding the breach. These organizations have the power to remove the database but have not done so yet. The researchers have not revealed where they found the database.

 

 

Protecting Your New Smartphone and Yourself

canstockphoto20668245Christmas is over and you got a new smartphone from Santa. This little device can become a vital part of your life. Today’s smartphones can hold vast amounts of data including credit card data and personal information. Protecting your phone means protecting yourself.

As you get to know your new gadget you need to learn when it is misbehaving. There are definitely signs when something is wrong and you need to spot them early. For example any app you download could be a hiding place for malware. Opening an attachment or visiting the wrong website could result in downloading an app that attacks your smartphone and even take control of it.

You should be especially cautious if you have a Android device. According to Forbes.com 97 percent of mobile malware is on Android. Much of the malware comes from unregulated apps. So stick to the Google PlayStore if you are smart. 

But if you have an Apple iPhone or other smartphone better be alert because they are not immune by any means.

According to Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive Security Labs more than 16 million mobile devices were hit by malware last yearZDNet  also reported an increase of 25 percent over 2013 infection. 

So how can you tell if you new smartphone is compromised or infected with malware? Here are the clues.

  1. Strange behavior – One of the first clues that something is wrong is that the phone or apps begin to act strangely.  You phone or the apps may cease working or the phone may crash.  This could indicate that some malicious code on your device is interfering with its normal operation. Sometimes an app may appear suddenly and without you doing anything. This could come from a suspect website. Make sure you know what apps are installed on your phone so you can quickly identify the intruder. Whenever you install an app make sure you carefully examine what permissions the app wants. An app that asks for administrators privileges can be difficult or impossible to uninstall. Use caution and delete any app you do not use. Deny any app that asks you to install it if you don’t know what it is or where it came from.
  2. Mysterious  calls or messages – Get in the habit of checking your call and message history regularly. Malware infections will try to make calls or send messages to expensive international numbers. If this happens you will get the bill and its hard to argue your way out of paying.
  3. Data hogging – Malicious apps will use up your allotted data to communicate with computers operated by cyber criminals. These cyber criminals are sending orders and updates to the malware. And the malware is sending stolen information back to the cybercriminals. Make sure you watch your data usage. If something is eating your data you need to act.
  4. Strange messages – Many cyber criminals use text messages to control malware. These messages can be interpreted by the malware to carry out tasks on your device. Sometimes the malware  is programmed to manipulate message logs to delete the message before you get suspicious. But some crooks don’t bother to program in this function resulting in strange messages appearing in your history. If your friend’s phone is infected you may see a strange message from them and vice versa. Be alert to strange text messages that don’t make sense or are completely unintelligible. Be alert if you get a strange message from a contact. This could mean they have become infected and it could spread to your phone. Be a friend and let them know.
  5. Watch your billExcessive text messages or data usage could cost you money. Examine your bill closely to detect suspicious charges quickly.

Be aware that a lot of malware can get into official app stores.  This malware can, and does, steal credit card data.  African-Americans do a lot banking and other financially related activities through our phones. If you regularly make payments or shop using your smartphone you should monitor your credit card bill and bank accounts for suspicious charges.

Prevention is key.

To enjoy and make the best and safest use of your new smartphone act to prevent an infection rather than trying to recover from a malware infection.

  • Keep your device’s operating system and apps updated.
  • Back up all important data on the device.
  • Use an anti malware and keep it up to date.
  • Buy or download your apps only from official stores. The possibility of downloading malware is lower but not impossible.
  • Use a screen lock. Make sure your code is at least six numbers. A pattern may be easy to guess and less secure than a PIN, and that a password is your best option.
  • Encrypt the content on your device.
  • Avoid rooting or jail breaking your smartphone.

Celebrity Cyber Report – Prince

 

Prince

It’s rare for Prince to have anything to do with the Internet. The artist has forbade streaming of his music or concert videos. And he’s got some nasty lawyers backing him up. But lately Prince has been showing up online and giving some serious backing to Jay-Z’s Tidal music streaming website.

Prince has released two new albums this year on Tidal. First to hit cyberspace was the surprise release Hit N Run: Phase Two. Of course Prince, being the Prolific One, the record was the follow up to Phase One released in September on Tidal. Both albums can be purchased as bundle on the Tidal website.

In the music industry Prince is power. His signing with Tidal this past summer signals that he is backing Jay-Z’s  effort to make Tidal work for artists. In a statement Prince said,  “After one meeting, it was obvious that Jay-Z and the team he has assembled at Tidal recognize and applaud the effort that real musicians put into their craft to achieve the very best they can at this pivotal time in the music industry.”

In a September press release Jay-z said,  “Prince has always been a visionary, a free-thinker.  We’re honored to offer his breadth of work, “1999,” “Purple Rain,” etc., music that has inspired so many, on Tidal.  We’re also excited to be the home for his new upcoming album, HITNRUN.  Both Prince and Tidal share the belief that all creatives should have the opportunity to speak directly to those that love and support them.  This partnership with Prince represents Tidal’s philosophy in its truest form, a 1 to 1 connection and direct delivery of artistry to the world.”

This move is not the only thing  indicating that his Royal Purpleness has soften his attitude toward cyberspace.  Prince has permitted his legendary Coachella 2008 rendition of Radiohead’s Creep to finally enter the cyber realm. Prince is not normally open to having his work on the Internet and has sued those who have posted his work online.  The performance dates back to 1992 and the Royal Rocker has blocked it from being seen online until now.

 

 

 

Breach Brief – Hyatt Hotels

HyattJust in time for your holiday travel Hyatt Hotels Corporation reported Wednesday that it has suffered a data breach. The hotel chain stated that its payment processing system was infected with credit card stealing malware in an attack discovered three weeks ago. Hyatt Hotels operates 627 hotels in more than 50 countries.

Details about the breach are scarce. Hyatt has not said how many of its locations were affected, how customer data might be compromised or how many customers may be affected. The company did however reveal that it “recently identified malware on computers that operate the payment processing systems for Hyatt-managed locations.”

A story published on Yahoo news by Reuters News Service stated that representatives in the call center set up by Hyatt said the malware was programmed to collect payment cardholder names, card numbers, expiration dates and internal verification codes.

Hyatt Corporation has created a dedicated webpage where it will post updates from the investigation at hyatt.com/protectingourcustomers. Customers in the U.S. and Canada can contact Hyatt with questions at 1-877-218-3036.  Customers from outside the U.S. and Canada should call +1-814-201-3665.

Hyatt is among a growing list of other hotel chains having a data breach in the past year, including Hilton, Starwood, Mandarin Oriental, White Lodging and the Trump Collection.

 

Re-Sell or Donate Your Old Technology

pile-o-cellphones-702573-870x400Christmas is done and as always many of us found a new techno-gadget under the tree. Its a great feeling to finally get your hands on a new laptop, tablet or smartphone. But keep in mind that that old phone or computer could put some money back in your pocket or a get you a nice tax write-off.

Re-selling technology is a big business. Thanks to the combined efforts of the technology industry and gadget hounds. Gadget hounds can’t wait for the next new gadget to hit the market. And the manufacturers are happy to oblige. They quickly trade in a smartphone or other device just to have the newest thing on the market. The result is that millions of devices end up for sale as re-furbished. Great devices, nearly new, at a greatly reduced price.

But a trade-in is not always the best option. You won’t always get the best deal for your old phone or laptop. The profit margin for re-selling refurbished devices is huge because the buyers keep the prices low for buying your stuff and high for selling it. Its a simple game that benefits the re-seller. But re-selling your old smartphone or computer can get you a few dollars and giving it to charity can get you a nice tax write-off and a good feeling inside.

Here are the best places to re-sell your old computer for top dollar.

gadget salvationGadget Salvation – Gadget Salvation is accredited with the Better Business Bureau and has an A rating from them. Users of ResellerRatings  give the company an average 8 out of 10 score and the site is rated 4 out of 5 stars based on the 55 reviews on Trustpilot. The company will provide you with a shipping label for your device and pay using PayPal. But the website has a couple of issues you need to be ready for. First is that it may be difficult to find the make and model of your device and you may find more than one listing creating some confusion. The second is that they have a strict standard for getting the best price for your device. When they say ‘like new” they mean it. Gadget Salvation warns sellers that only about 1 in 10 devices are considered to be in “flawless” condition. Most used laptops only qualify for “good.” But their prices are still above average compared to other companies.

macmeanofferMac Me An OfferRemember the old saying; “If it sounds to good to be true it probably is?”  Well the price difference between their MacBook offers and the other sites will have you thinking it’s a scam. But Mac Me An Offer has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

This website requires that you complete some forms and be a little more detailed about the cosmetic and working condition of your computer. Then you have to wait for a price quote that comes via email. Of course the site only deals in Apple products.

amazon-logoAmazon.com – Amazingly Amazon will accept a host of devices for trade-in. You can trade in old smartphones, tablets, cameras, laptops,video games, wearable devices, MP3 players, TVs, movies and CDs, other assorted electronics and even books and textbooks. Your trade-in will not get you cash but you can get an Amazon gift card.

PCWorld.com has a great list of electronics buy back programs

Donating to charity is another great way to dispose of old electronics. Many charities put the electronics to good use buy re-selling them for a profit. Many homeless shelters use old computer and laptops to help the homeless find jobs, fill out job applications online, and various other tasks.

Some women’s shelters provide cellphones and computers to abused women as well. Check in your local area for shelters that are taking donations. Also check out the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  Most of these donations are completely tax deductible and the charities will provide receipts for your donation’s value.

Another place to donate old electronics is the World Computer Exchange. These computers are used in schools in under-developed countries and private education programs. These too are normally tax deductible.

There is also Cellphones for Soldiers.  This  charity accepts used cellphones which are refurbished and sold. A portion of the profits is used to purchase prepaid calling minutes for soldiers deployed overseas so they may call families back home.

Most charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries accept electronic donations.

Check out the MoneyCrashers.com website for more charities accepting electronics donations.

Now you know.

 

 

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – Shopping While Black

canstockphoto18667912Racial profiling is a reality. People of color have suffered from the idea that we are untrustworthy and dishonest by nature. Nothing could father from the truth. As a result of this hideous myth black people are more likely to be wrongly accused, wrongly prosecuted and wrongly convicted. And even with a trillion dollars of consumer buying power we face racial stereotypes even when spending our money. Its called shopping while black. The result is that many black people have taken to shopping online.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you shop being black is a negative mark against the African-American consumer. Notable African-Americans including Oprah Winfrey and Condolezza Rice have been mistreated simply for shopping while black.

Milwaukee Bucks forward John Henson dropped by a Schwanke-Kasten jewelry store in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin shopping for a Rolex watch.  The staff of the store reacted to the tall black man by refusing him entry into the store and calling police.  The police verified Henson’s identity but the store employees still insisted that the police supervise the professional athlete while he shopped.

The sad truth of this is that research indicates that black people are no more likely to shoplift than any other ethnic group. Statistics indicate that shoplifting is spread fairly evenly across all colors and economic categories. 

A recent Gallup poll revealed that African-Americans felt  more discriminated against while shopping than doing anything else. Twenty-four percent said they experienced discrimination in a retail setting, compared to while eating out, 20 percent, at work or during police encounters, 18 percent, and while obtaining health care ,12 percent.

Blacks have moved their shopping online to avoid the hassle and embarrassment of dealing with race while shopping. African-Americans are more likely to shop online using mobile devices than other racial groups. So the move to express our buying power online was a small one. However it should be noted that the overall trend among consumers is to shop online. African-Americans continue to be the fastest growing demographic of online shoppers.

African-Americans are savvy shoppers. According to Experian black people are deal seekers and 28 percent more likely to respond to social media advertising and 14 percent more likely to use social media to tell friends of products and companies they like.

Black people are also more likely to shop online using a mobile device. African-Americans have a higher mobile aptitude compared to other groups and use their mobile devices, smartphones, to comparison shop, to price match and investigate products. And after all is said and done African-Americans are actually more likely to buy online.

A 2013 report from Adweek showed black people shop online more than other groups. According to the magazine higher income African-Americans shop online in record numbers. Half of black people surveyed made at least 30 percent of their retail purchases online. And at least 22 percent of high income blacks made at least half of their retail purchases online.

Holiday shopping is bad enough without being treated suspiciously when you walk in a store. A trillion dollars in buying power is nothing to laugh at. Using the Internet permits black people to shop and buy with dignity. Blacks are showing our willingness to stay away from brick and mortar stores when we feel we are not being treated properly.

 

 

 

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – Stop Credit Card Fraud

Black people shopping online this holiday season should be aware that fraud is rampant. Hackers are extremely savvy and know where and how to steal credit card data. So you need to be just as savvy. African-Americans should understand where and how they are vulnerable when shopping, in stores or online. Don’t let a techno-Scrooge ruin your holiday.

According to NASDAQ, nearly 32 million Americans had their credit cards breached in 2014. Forty-five percent of those breaches happened online.  Now is the time to learn online safety to protect your credit, your cash, your identity and your holiday season.

First and foremost, by now you should have the new Chip & PIN or EMV cards. If not then you need to get a hold of your bank or credit card company and demand it. This new card is not perfect but it is far more secure than the regular magnetic strip cards. Of course it takes longer to process a transaction but isn’t it worth it to keep you money safe?

Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while shopping online.

  • Shop only at trusted websites and stores. Stick with the familiar retailers and more common internet sites.  Keep some cash on hand when you shop at unique stores or gift shops to avoid exposing yourself to fraud. Beware of misspellings or domain names using “.net” instead of “.com”. This a common trick used by cyber criminals to fool unsuspecting consumers. Check out “Is ThatWebsite Trustworthy?”

Google / TLS

  • Make sure you see “https” in the URL. Also look for the little green lock. You should be well aware of these things if you shop online anytime not just the holidays. And even if you are not shopping whenever you perform sensitive business online know what a secure website looks like.
  • Do your homework! Research the company or website before making a purchase in person or online. Check websites like Yelp.com or  Scamadviser.com to see what other consumers are saying. Look for a website’s customer rating. Check posts previous customers have written on the company’s website, blog, or customer feedback page.
  • Protect your privacy. Be suspicious of any store or website that asks for too much information. Information such as your PIN, birthday or Social Security number are strictly off limits. Only give up the minimum amount of personal information possible. Don’t store information on the website server. Some websites will ask you to register and keep your credit card number on file in a cookie. Decline this option of you can and purchase as a guest to the website. You may have to enter your information each time you buy but you are safer.  If you do create an account on a shopping website, or any website for that matter, make sure you have a strong and secure password. This makes it harder to be hacked or high-jacked by cyber crooks. Learn how to create a secure password.
  • Use filters that warn you of suspicious or fraudulent websites or web pages. Google Chrome is excellent for stopping you from visiting suspicious websites. Many anit-virus programs can do the same thing. Make sure your anti-virus/anti-malware is up to date.
  • Use a credit card versus a debit card when shopping online.  Why? Because credit cards offer protections from identity theft that debit cards don’t offer. Also credit cards offers you the option of contesting  fraudulent charges to your account where a debit card takes the money directly from you bank account. Its much harder to get back if something goes wrong.
  • Keep good records. Print a copy of your order confirmation, save email receipts, and write down any pertinent information in case it’s needed to contest a charge.
  • Never, ever shop using public computers! These computer are notorious for viruses and malware. They could be hiding all sorts of software to steal passwords and personal information. You have no idea who was there before you or what they were doing.
  •  Beware public Wi-Fi! This is a favorite hunting ground for cyber thieves. They can steal information by simply by being on the same network and watching what you do. But some cyber criminals are even providing free Wi-Fi in hotels and coffee shops as a trap for guests. Once you are on THEIR network you’re at their mercy. Be alert and know what network you are on and use a VPN to protect your Internet traffic from prying eyes.
  • As always check you bank account and credit card statements daily.  If you see any charges you don’t recognize, address the matter immediately. Don’t pay credit card bills until you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems. After that, you might be liable for the charges.

Happy Holidays!

App of the Week – Allset

AllsetWouldn’t it be nice to select a restaurant walk in, sit down, eat and walk out. Your reservation has been made, your meal selected and your bill paid before you even walk in the door? Yes, that would be nice and save a lot of time and headache for all concerned. That is why Allset is the App of the Week.

Allset is an app that eliminates a lot of the time consumption and inconvenience of eating out. Especially if you eating on a schedule, like say lunch in a downtown area.  The app allows you to select your restaurant and even your favorite table. Your meal is ordered directly through the app and ready when you walk through the door. When you’re done eating just walk away. Using the app means you have already paid your bill.

Allset is a blessing to the busy, the busy office worker and the busy restaurant owner who wants to feed you and get you out of that seat so someone else can get fed…and get out! This speed  means you get back to the office on time and the restaurant gets to feed more mouths resulting is greater profits. Allset is available for  just about any restaurant.

Allset is free and available for Apple and Android.

Cellphone Plans; Which One is the Right One?


cinchIts the holiday season and someone is going to get a new cellphone. Most people already have a cellphone. Make that 96 percent of the U.S. population has a cellphone. African-Americans are more likely to have a smartphone than a computer. Among all Americans we do more business and shopping using mobile devices than all other groups.  You have no doubt seen all the commercials from all the cellphone companies with all the incredible promises of great services, plentiful data and great prices. The ads can be confusing. The question black people want answered is; which cellphone plan is right for you?

Cinch is a new online tool that allows you to answer a set of questions that guides you to the right phone plan. The phone plan search is the latest product from Cinch Financial, a company that helps consumers you find the right banks, credit cards and other financial products that best meets their needs.

The cellphone market is a vicious place that has cellphone companies at each other throats for customers. Why? Because everyone has a cell phone and few new customer can be found. So companies have to steal customers from each other. Not only are the big companies fighting for customers but they have to compete with smaller cell service providers that are nibbling away at specialized market segments. For example, Defense Mobile is specializing in serving current and former military members.  Consumer Cellular has targeted the market of older people with cell phones and has the backing of the AARP.

Cinch’s new tool assesses your needs and then suggests a cellphone plan from the many major and smaller carrier services competing for your business. According to Cinch the tool is designed to consider all the cell phone plans on the market including the fine print. Then, after you answer the questions, it customizes recommendations based on your specific situation. For people who do not wish to answer the questions they can send their bill to Cinch using the ‘BillSnap‘ feature of the website and they will do the comparison for you. Cinch clams to be totally unbiased and companies cannot pay to have their plan featured.

Cinch claims the tool uses the data collected from the various plans. The company said people tend to buy plans with too much data.  Cinch believes the easiest way to save money on phone plans is to reduce the monthly data customers pay for.

Now you know.

See also:

Big Four Wireless Carriers Get Poor Scores in Consumer Reports Rankings

T-Mobile is now America’s best wireless carrier (of the big four, at least)

What to Expect When You Switch Cell Carriers

Celebrity Cyber Report – Jay-Z, Dave Chappelle, LeBron James

LeBron James Uninterrupted & Unstoppable

lebron-james2-e1408424720913

LeBron James

Pro athletes will tell you nothing is more frustrating than seeing snippets of an answer to a question in the newspapers that end up being misleading or out of context . Its a major issued between athletes and sport reporters.

That’s all about to change thanks to NBA star LeBron James. James is launching a new social media platform named LeBron James’ Uninterrupted.  The platform will allow sports stars to speak out unfiltered and uninterrupted.

Sports stars have transcended beyond just athletes to become celebrities with commercials, endorsement deals and even television and movie roles. Warner Bros. and Turner Sports have seen this transition and decided to invest $15.8 million in James’ platform. According to the Hollywood Reporter the idea was originally financed by James himself along with his manager Maverick Carter. The new money from Turner and Warner Bros. help will expand content, focus on big names in sports and expand to mobile, web, and social media platforms, and even to TV and film.

LeBron told the Hollywood Reporter “It’s giving athletes an opportunity to have a platform where they can speak about any issue. They don’t have to wait to be in front of a camera.”

Already Uninterrupted has been used by athletes to speak out. New England Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski updated his fans about his recent injury. Other athletes that have used the platform include Ronda Rousey and Serena Williams.

James has an already impressive entertainment presence. He has appeared in Amy Schumer’s summer hit Trainwreck and he and Carter have a partnership with Warner Bros. through their company Spring Hill Entertainment.

The partnership with Warner Bros. is impressive. Together the two companies are slated to create content across multiple platforms including the web, documentary and feature films and scripted and reality television. LeBron’s entertainment venture has an expanding project portfolio besides the Uninterrupted platform. This includes Disney XD’s inspirational series Becoming, the Starz’ breakout scripted comedy Survivor’s Remorse and an upcoming prime-time game show for NBC.

Another young black man without an advanced education making big business moves.

Jay-Z & Tidal Music

GTY_jay-z_nt_131025_16x9_992

Jay-Z

Hip-Hop mogul Jay-Z has announced the hiring of a new CEO for his Tidal music streaming service. Starting in January Jeff Toig, a streaming music veteran will take over the reins of Tidal Music. Toig’s resume includes positions as chief business officer at Soundcloud and a founding role in Cricket Wireless’ streaming app Muve Music.

Jay-Z refuses to give in to the constant rumors and so-called expert analysis that predict that Tidal is dead or dying. Among the rumors is hints of a partnership with Samsung but nothing has been confirmed.  This is the third CEO in just over six months at Tidal. With a new CEO Jay-Z is hoping the veteran executive can spark new life in the artist owned venture.

What Jay-Z is doing is trying to do is compete in a highly competitive space with Apple Music, Spotify and other more established music streaming services. 

But the real interesting fact of this story is that a young black man educated on the streets of Brooklyn just hired a Harvard Business School graduate  to run one of his many business ventures! The world is changing.

Dave Chappelle & Yondr

dave-chappelle-650x400 (1)

Dave Chappelle

Comedian Dave Chappelle, like many performers, have become fed up with the presence of cell phones at their performances. Because of the steady advancements in technology many performances are being recorded and shared on YouTube and other websites. Performers are also fed up with the distraction of phones ringing during performances.

 Chappelle has joined forced with the tech start-up Yondr to shut down cellphone users during his performances. Yondr makes cellphone cases that prevents people from using their cellphones inside the venue where he will be performing. The phone case locks once it enters a defined area. If the user wishes to use the phone they must leave the area causing the case to unlock.

Chappelle is booked to perform 13 sold-out shows at Thalia Hall in Chicago beginning on December 3rd. People attending the show will have to place their phones inside of Yondr’s smartphone sleeves before entering the venue.